If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Previewing the Summer Roundup course...again

Being the nervous, new-to-racing types that we are, we felt the need to go check out the Summer Roundup Trail Race course again today. It is a well known "fact" that race directors are a rare breed, known for their sadistic ability to underestimate the scope and difficulty of their courses (i.e. Course description - 1000 feet of climbing - Reality of the altimeter and GPS - 1530 feet of climbing - only a 50% difference). Not that we doubt the validity of this for the Triple Crown of Racing folks - these are the people who put on the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, but we just had to make sure it was going to really hurt and leave us spent - yes and yes!!! For a 7.5 mile course, this has a bit of a bite to it, especially for newbies like us!
However, we are still going to sign up for the race, or in our case, "event" ... we think! We have low expectations for a top 50% finish! ;-)

The climb at the beginning of the race is actually more deceiving. There is a lot of winding through the scrub oak and there are not long stretches of uphill spread out before you to make you cringe. The hardest part of the start is that the climbing begins in earnest no more that 200 yards into the race. We have to figure out a way to properly warm up for that. There is a "gentler" section of climb from about 1.2 miles to 2.1 miles that will sort out some order for those who don't blow up by starting too hard. The tricky part will be avoiding those whose flames are flickering on the single track descent to the road. The sinister climb comes next - High Drive - a steep dirt road that allows only one-way traffic. This climb stretches out before you and provides those who dare to look up an endless view of the pain that lies ahead. The ascent to the turn-around point is close to 600' in a little over a mile, so hold on and try really hard to find a rhythm. The downhill is pretty good although there is a definite need to control the speed on High Drive.

There are also a couple of short, punchy climbs on the way to the finish that require a little reserve in the tank. One of them, which is .5 mile from the finish, starts at 19% grade according to the GPS - ouch!!! Should be fun at least for a test to see where we are with our fitness and skills. We cooled down in the large grassy field by the parking lot with some barefoot walking and stretches. The cool grass felt relaxing to the feet after a good run. It was a great day on the trails (as always) and good times for the memory bank!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ute Valley in the morning

It was a fantastic morning for a trail run. Our mini-heatwave broke a little and we had 60 degrees with a cool breeze early this morning for our run. We were fortunate to run earlier, as we had a thick cloud cover by 11 am that did not break until later in the evening. We have always avoided Ute Valley during the heat of the day anyway as we have seen more rattle snakes there than anywhere else we have been. And because of the heavy traffic this park gets, the snakes are bold and belligerent, not a good combo when startling a venemous reptile! The trails here still have such a rustic charm to them, regardless of the fact that the park is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. It is wonderful to drop in to the valley floor and be surrounded by such pristine terrain that hides the sight - and sounds - of the bordering homes and streets.
Both of us started out feeling a little "off" but were able to burn-in to our run and really enjoy the trails. Being out in a natural surrounding can do wonders for invigorating both your mind and your spirit - that is the beauty of trail running.
On the top rim of the park, you must share your views with some of the local residents. It is worth it, though, to be less than a mile from trails of this quality. We are most fortunate in that regard! A quote for today - remember you cannot buy what you experience on the trails:

"To find something you can enjoy is far better than finding something you can possess." - Glen Holm

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mid-week at Garden of the Gods

Decided to go somewhere we would not normally run in the evening for the post-work run, so we headed over to Garden of the Gods. Steve did not carry a camera, so here are a couple scenery views from the Siamese Twins Arch from a recent visit to the park. It is hard to resist framing Pikes Peak through the keyhole when you get a chance on a sunny day! It was quite warm this evening, in the upper-80's, so we were testing our electrolyte mixtures - they work well. We have not had much heat yet, but both of us struggle with losing a lot of minerals when we sweat. We'll need some tips from the desert runners.
We got in a very nice 6 mile run, traversing the main outer loop of trails in the park. We were quite happy to have very light trail traffic (and no snakes to give us Jello-leg, either!!!) It was a surprising, good-tempo evening for us and we're hoping to better our speeds if we can get a few more races in. We have always heard that racing makes you run better and faster, hope it's true!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A smorgasboard post

Today is a "smorgasboard" post - a little bit of everything, and since I am posting today (K), I am doing the girlie thing - pink print! My friend Becky and I headed over to one of our favorite trails, Falcon Trail at the USAFA, on our mountain bikes. As we have posted before, Falcon is a great 13 mile trail loop.We access it via the Santa Fe Trail. The day was nice - sun mixed with a few clouds and very comfortable temps - mid to upper 70's.
Here, I am getting to splish splash through the little creek. The water is really low - we need some rain!
Falcon has a remote feel to it. Below, Becky cruises through the green foilage past a large rock face. We ended our fun ride with about 33.5 miles for the day.
Post ride, I did a few home projects. I enjoy knitting, and although normally a seasonal knitter (winter only), I got a wild hair over the weekend and whipped up a little felted wool purse and a felted wool case for our running camera. I put the finishing touches on those today. The camera case fits nicely in the shoulder pouch on Steve's Nathan pack and pads the camera to keep it from bouncing around.
After completing the knitting projects, several VERY RIPE bananas were begging to be put out of their misery. I obliged and turned them into a couple loaves of tasty banana bread. If you have ripe bananas that need to be used FAST, check out this very delicious recipe from Runner's World:

I saw a very simple bumper sticker while driving home from the trailhead today -
it had a picture of a very "happy" dog and said:
"Wag more, growl less."
I like it. Keep a smile.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bear Creek Regional Park run

Before heading out for our Sunday run, we were checking on our small Xeriscape garden and I could not resist taking some butterfly shots. These Jupiter's Beard plants are fantastic butterfly magnets when in full bloom. I could not coax this guy into standing still, but caught him pretty close to motionless.
We went exploring today in Bear Creek Regional Park in the southwestern portion of Colorado Springs. The Summer Roundup Trail Race is being held there in two weeks, so we thought we would snoop around the course and test our legs a bit. The race course is an out-and-back on wide singletrack, some double track dirt road, and a short paved connection on Bear Creek Road.
It was sunny and pretty warm by the time we started and there is not much shade to be found along the trails. The trails are pretty mild with a fair amount of steady climbing on the way out to the turn around. The first mile is pretty steep, as is the last eight-tenths of a mile before the turn. It will require some will power to not go out too fast at the start so that there is some fuel in the tank for the return trip. Kathleen is running out on the plateau following the first hard climb, with great mountain scenery ahead. Waiting ahead is a steep climb up High Drive to the turn around.
Although the return trip is predominantly downhill, there are a few short climbs to keep you on your toes. Steve is climbing out of the small canyon next to Bear Creek Road above. We had a great time on the trails today and will probably end up doing the race - we have to take advantage of the events close to home!!!

Western States 100 this weekend
On a side note, we'll be tuning in to the webcast for the Western States Endurance Run this weekend. We will be tracking the progress of local ultra running phenom Tony Krupicka and anticipate that he will have a great race! It looks like the field will be packed with talent this year, so if you are interested in following the action go to this link: http://webcast.ws100.com/

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Warm summer evening trail run in Palmer Park

This was probably our warmest run this year - about 80 degrees after work. Perfect for a little run through Palmer Park. You really never can get tired of having such a variety of trails to run and this is so close to work that it is a no-brainer for evening runs. Plus it sits mostly on two large mesas and is perfect for catching evening light much later than where we live against the mountain. We started out on the Grandview mesa side of the park, then ran down into the South Canyon trail.
Coming up out of the canyon was nice, as far as uphills go, as it was mostly shaded by the time we were climbing out. When we reached the top, we headed out onto the Mesa trail and Yucca trail in order to soak in some setting sun rays!
With about 7 miles of trails in our legs, we decided to call it a day. It is always relaxing to get back in the truck and head home with the weight of the work day erased by a great trail run!
On the way home I caught some "conservationist" deer not wanting the parking lot watering to go to waste! There was a second buck to the right walking through the sprinklers, casually headed for this watering hole!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday recovery ride

Today began with brilliant sunshine and bluebird skies. It was also one of the first days where it warmed up really early. We decided to saddle up the road bikes and head out for a mellow recovery spin following our fun race from yesterday. We looped around our area and ended up with 22 miles, which was sufficient. Surprisingly, our legs felt pretty good. After our great day yesterday, we are now looking for a few more fun and scenic (and do-able since we are just getting our feet wet) trail races this summer. Here are a few that could potentially be on the radar:

July 6 - Summer Roundup Trail Run 12k - Colorado Springs

July 26 - Spring Creek Memorial Run - 9 miles - Steamboat Springs

September 21 - Boulder Backroads Half-Marathon - Boulder
http://www.boulderbackroads.com/ (although the entry fee is a bit abusive)

September 27 - Aspen Golden Leaf Trail Half-Marathon - Aspen

Anyway, we had a wonderful weekend and are thankful for each day we get to experience. Life is good!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Joe Colton's Off Road Adventure Run - Our first ever running race!

We finally decided to try a running race and we picked Joe Colton's Off Road Adventure run in Rollinsville, Colorado as our initial plunge into the racing world. A little background: Joe Colton was an adventurous young boy who tragically died from the flu at only 6 years of age. The race is a memorial for him and raises funds for the small mountain towns near Rollinsville.
It was an absolutely beautiful day with a cloudless sky and about 60 degrees at the start. Aside from a strong headwind on the way out, the weather was perfect. This was the view along Co Hwy 119 as runners arrived and prepared for the race.
A friendly fellow racer offered to take a photo of us together while we were getting ready, which was nice as Steve did not wear his pack for the race and had nowhere to stash the camera - sorry no race photos :-(
The race was an out-and-back format on the Tolland/East Portal dirt road along the railroad. Rollinsville is at the base of Rollins Pass and accesses the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel. The tunnel is bored through the mountains under the Continental Divide and drops out in Winter Park on the western side of the Divide. The town and start area sit at about 8500' elevation.
This is the view down the road toward the start area from Hwy 119. The mostly-snowpacked mountains of the Continental Divide are barely visible in the distance, but we would have an awesome view of the peaks at the 5 mile turnaround. We raced the 10 mile version of the course (there were 5k, 10k, 10 Mi, and 15 Mi distances) and it was undulating with a gradual climb out and mostly descent back. The course topped out at about 9000' and logged about 770' of climb. It was a good course made fabulous by the scenery and surroundings. Most of the course followed South Boulder Creek, still flowing rapidly with "spring" runoff. We ran most of the race together which was pretty cool since neither of us knew what to expect from racing. We were strong on the hills thanks to our trail running and thanks to nothing being flat anywhere we run!! The return 5 miles with mostly downhill was new territory for us as we've not done any sustained runs at that pace (mostly between 7 and 8 min/mi). It was apparent when we finished that our non-race-specific training still served us well. Kathleen finished third in her age group and 5th woman overall at 1:22:00! Steve finished second in his age group and 14th in the men's overall at 1:21:43. Not too bad for a first try at racing!! This one will definitely be on next year's calendar. It was an excellent day for sure!

Monday, June 9, 2008

I still LOVE my bikes!!!

Yesterday, Steve and I headed over to the Santa Fe Trail to do a short, mellow run but a "Rabbit" came up from behind and PASSED us while we stopped to tie a shoelace and alas, our mellow run turned to tempo to catch that darn Rabbit! It was good because we were kind of lolly gagging and the Rabbit was really pushing the pace - we had to work pretty hard to catch, pass, and then stay in front! It became evident that we need to utilize the relative "flatness" of Santa Fe for a little more tempo/speed work. It was fun to have some added incentive to push the pace! Our mellow/tempo run ended up about 7.25 miles. It was good!Today, I headed out on my road bike for 22 miles in our neighborhood. I LOVE my bikes, hence the picture of my beloved road bike, above. I had been having some abandonment issues regarding riding but once I mounted my lovely steed, she wooed me back with her crisp acceleration, speed and grace, and wind in my face!!! I love riding through our neighborhoods and checking out all the local gardens coming to life with color (finally!). It was funny, too, seeing all the deer merrily munching (mowing) away on the lovely, new, tender garden tidbits. It will continue to be funny as long as the nice little deer stay out of OUR flower garden.
Our flower garden is finally producing some color of its own (above). Because of our very dry climate, we have planted predominately xeric plants, which require very little water, and in our case, care! A garden requiring too much time would cut into our fun time of trail running and biking! Some of our favorite hardy plants include: Jupiters Beard, Russian Sage, Catmint, Cranesbill, Salvia, Hyssops, Artemesia, Yarrow, and Evening Primrose. It is enjoyable to watch the color of the various plants come to life and pop with their beautiful colors over the season.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stunning Rampart Reservoir Trail

One of the key links in the Colorado Springs water supply chain, Rampart Reservoir sits at 9000' elevation in the Rampart Range approximately 17 miles up the mountain from town and has approximately 500 surface acres. From the eastern shores of the reservoir there is an awesome perspective of the grandeur of Pikes Peak. While we have enjoyed this trail by mountain bike in the past, today would be the maiden voyage as a trail run. Traffic was light today for a summer day, however fishing is limited and boating prohibited right now because of problems caused by growing numbers of Zebra Mussel. These thumbnail-sized critters like to clog water lines and water pumps in the system that brings water to town - not good!
Above is a nice shot of Kathleen running on the western shore of the reservoir. We started at the eastern end of the dam wall and headed west, so the western shores were our first trails of the day. We don't get much water time aside from small streams, so this was a good "water-day" for us!
Found a nice ledge for a group photo which always helps - this was right past the foot bridge where traffic merges in from the mountain bike trailhead off of Rampart Range Road. This is also the spot where water comes in from the pipeline off the Continental Divide, many miles to the west.
Steve enjoys the nice flow of trails and the great sunny day we had!
One of the many inlets that the trail follows along the shoreline. While there are no major climbs, this trail is a continual flow of short ups and downs (see profile below) that begin to sap a little from the legs. The 11.5 loop gains an accumulated 2250' elevation, and when combined with a base elevation exceeding 9000', this is a challenging (but extremely fun!) run.

Tomorrow is forecast for clouds and much cooler, so we were very thankful for such great trails on which to spend a sunny day in the mountains - good times!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Road ride with Becky at the United States Air Force Academy

Today, Becky and I saddled up our road bikes and headed over to the United States Air Force Academy. It was a beautiful morning for a ride! I snapped the picture shown above looking over the sport fields, track, and cadet area. The pointy tipped Chapel is in the distance. The Academy is one of the best road rides in the area. The roads are clean, have very wide shoulders, the traffic is well controlled, and the scenery is fabulous!
Becky was kind enough to show ME how to use the timer on MY camera - it turned out to be a pretty setting for a picture! It looks like we are in the middle of nowhere high in the mountains when actually we are not far from the Cadet area and Visitor's Center. Interestingly enough, we saw predominantly more women riding today than men. I think we saw about a dozen other ladies riding and only three men. Weird. Anyway, we ended the day with two laps on the main loop, about 30 miles total. It was an enjoyable ride!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Long Day at the Office

We woke to another blanket of clouds this morning and put off our plans to run the Rampart Reservoir loop - higher elevation and cloud cover were not appealing, so another day for that. (Anyone interested in Rampart should see this page describing the Pony Express trail race there in September - http://www.pprrun.org/events/PonyExpress/main.htm.) So off we went to run the Falcon Trail on the US Air Force Academy. It was strangely quiet on the trail which is unusual for a weekend. Eventually we did get to enjoy some sunshine and that was a bonus. Kathleen got the day started off on the wrong "foot", so to speak. She stubbed her toe less than 2 minutes into the run, skidded to a stop on her left side, and claimed the grand prize of a nice gouge on the ankle, raspberry on the hip, and scraped calf. (Not to mention the fact that she soiled her new hot pink Dirty Girl gaiters!) No serious injury, though, so we were on our way again after dusting her off a little.
Kathleen running along the northern side of the loop, above the lower reservoirs - it is weird looking down and seeing no water, as they are repairing the eastern wall of the large reservoir and it is completely dry.
Steve running the same section, with Blodgett Peak looming in the background. It stayed hazy for a while as the clouds were burning off, and it was remarkably humid considering our arid climate.
We love to ride this stream crossing on our mountain bikes, especially on warm days. It's a little different prospect while running, as the remaining 5.5 miles with wet feet and shoes could be a little harsh. This nice log bridge is a new addition since last summer and works quite well for foot traffic.
Unfortunately after mile 8, Steve was beginning to feel the effects of not being able to take in any food. It was a strange occurrence that has rarely happened, but he now knows what is meant by having to run the last miles with your head! But we both finished and surprisingly made it in 5 minutes faster than the first time we ran the loop earlier in May. It was a good long run and we earned our calories today - German Chocolate cake to be exact!!!

Life is nothing if not a daring adventure. Helen Keller
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